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  • Laura Vuillemin

French Helvetisms


Inspired by Janice den Heijer’s great LinkedIn posts about Swiss helvetisms in German, I would like to talk to you about the same topic.... but with a French perspective this time!


As we all know, Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romanche. French is spoken in Romandy, in the west part of the country. This variant includes terms that are specific to Switzerland (interestingly, some of them are also heard in my French border region of origin, Franche-Comté).


Here are some examples (there are many more):


ATM

Switzerland ▶️ Bancomat

France ▶️ Distributeur


BLINKER

Switzerland ▶️ Signofile

France ▶️ Clignotant


CUTLERY

Switzerland ▶️ Services

France ▶️ Couverts

DUSTPAN AND BRUSH

Switzerland ▶️ Brosse et ramassoire

France ▶️ Pelle et balayette


HAIRDRYER

Switzerland ▶️ Foen

France ▶️ Sèche-cheveux


KITCHEN TOWEL

Switzerland ▶️ Papier ménage

France ▶️ Sopalin


LOCK (a door)

Switzerland ▶️ Cotter

France ▶️ Fermer à clé


MOBILE PHONE

Switzerland ▶️ Natel

France ▶️ Portable


MOP

Switzerland ▶️ Panosse

France ▶️ Serpillère


PENCIL

Switzerland ▶️ Crayon gris

France ▶️ Crayon de papier


POUR (in the context of rain)

Switzerland ▶️ Roiller

France ▶️ Pleuvoir des cordes


PUDDLE

Switzerland ▶️ Gouille

France ▶️ Flaque


STAMP

Switzerland ▶️ Stempf

France ▶️ Tampon


STUMBLE

Switzerland ▶️ S’encoubler

France ▶️ Trébucher

This post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t also talk about how we say 70, 80 and 90 (and all numbers included in between) on both sides of the borders. Legendary and timeless topic!


𝗙𝗿𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (but also its former African colonies and Quebec)

70 - Soixante-dix [Literally 60 + 10]

80 - Quatre-vingts [Literally 4 x 20]

90 - Quatre-vingt-dix [Literally 4 x 20 + 10]


𝗦𝘄𝗶𝘁𝘇𝗲𝗿𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗱 (but also Belgium and its former African colonies, and Luxembourg)

70 - Septante

80 - Huitante (some Swiss cantons only), quatre-vingts (some other Swiss cantons, Belgium and Luxembourg)

90 - Nonante


〰️〰️


Francophones can, obviously, understand each other regardless of their country of origin. However, we have our own specificities, which enrich the French language as a whole.


This will sometimes lead to some (amused) confusion, but what better way to learn from others and prompt discussion with our fellow French speakers?

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